It was 1988 in Petal, Mississippi, and I was in love. My third-grade student teacher, Ms. Smith, had stolen my heart. Ms. Smith was pretty, with her long brown hair and that tiny ponytail on the top of her head that poofed up. But it was more than her looks that made me swoon — Ms. Smith likedme. That wasn’t always the case with my teachers, and for good reason.
I sat in the Fox News Washington studio last fall and waited to be interviewed on “Fox & Friends” about a heartwarming op-ed I had written for Fox News headlined “What happened when my daughter saw me kiss my wife.” My body was exhausted from an intense treatment for a chronic illness; a doctor had just reported that my dad would probably be dead in six months; and I felt like I was failing as a dad because I was spending too much time at work. I was lost in sea of depression and I couldn’t find my way home.
It was the crack of dawn and I couldn’t stop looking over at the woman a few feet away from me on the beach. I had come to watch the sunrise and she was getting on my nerves.
An eight-year-old girl broke my heart on the metro last year. Her name was Briana.
A few years ago, I had a coworker who was particularly unfriendly from the start. She barely even acknowledged me when I’d see her and say hello. Then one day, it changed.
A few years ago, I had this new coworker who came off as weird — really weird, and within a couple of weeks of his arrival, a lot of people in the office were making comments about him behind his back.
There I was, sitting in a circle of a dozen Christian men who had come together for the express purpose of being vulnerable with each other. It felt awkward.
I was about to start my freshman year of college, and I was afraid I wouldn’t have any friends at school. While there were plenty of people my age at the local charismatic church I was attending, I wasn’t sure I wanted to hang out with them. They struck me as being a bit on the wild side (spiritually), especially this guy named Gerald. He worshiped God like he was drunk on the Holy Spirit, and if you struck up a conversation with him, he always found a way to bring it back to Jesus. It made me uncomfortable, but…
According to recent research, people without friends die sooner than those with friends.
When I was in high school, I attended the funerals for two classmates, one of whom died in a tragic shooting accident. I have a vivid memory from his funeral: sitting in the packed funeral home listening to Michael W. Smith’s song “Friends are Friends Forever” as teenagers sniffled and wiped tears away.
My first lunch with my friend Tim did not go well. He was a new guy at church and we worked in the same area of the city, so I figured it would be a chance to make a new lunch buddy. About ten minutes into the meal, I changed my mind.
I didn’t have many friends in middle school, but I had Jeffrey Mitchell, and I needed him. Some of the popular boys had started making fun of me, so I was growing increasingly uncomfortable in my own skin. Jeffrey didn’t seem to care. We spent time at each other’s houses, hung around each other during recess, and sat next to each other when we had the same classes. This included Mrs. Silkman’s seventh grade English class where unfortunately, our friendship came to an abrupt end one day.
There are very few sports events I’ve ever cared about, and when there’s an exception, it’s a big deal. The last time it happened to me was in 2001.
Several years ago, I attended a church retreat during which I wrote and performed a skit that I now regret. It was basically a stand-up routine in which I played the part of a megachurch pastor, and to be fair, it wasn’t all bad. Some of the skit was just gentle ribbing of big, seeker-sensitive churches. But there were other parts that included not-so-subtle backhanded insults and biting sarcasm. Those parts got the biggest laughs from my audience, and therefore, I considered the skit to be a big success.
At 12 years old, I can assure you it was not my plan to have a meltdown in front of a handful of my seventh-grade classmates, some of whom I didn’t know very well.